Singapore and Russia Create Strict Laws About “Fake News”

Laura BednarCybersecurityLeave a Comment

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With rumors of “fake news” spreading like wildfire on the internet, two countries have taken drastic measures to ensure that their residents are not exposed to the “falsehoods.” The governments of Russia and Singapore have created regulations regarding online content and use of private networks, limiting what can be said and viewed online.

New Bill Aims to Limit Fake News

Singapore has introduced a new bill called the “Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill’ in an attempt to prevent residents from reading fake news on the internet. The purpose of the Act is to:

  • Prevent communications of false statements of fact in Singapore and allow for measures to be taken to counteract such statements
  • Suppress the financing and promotion of online locations that continually put out false claims of fact in Singapore
  • Allow for governments to detect, control, and safeguard against inauthentic behavior such as bots
  • Enhance disclosure of information concerning paid content dealing with politics

The Singapore Prime Minister, who is in charge of the government, along with his competent authority group, will decide what information online is “false.” Their definition of the term is broad, saying that it includes anything that is false or misleading whether wholly or in part, on its own or in context.

Control and Consequences

The Competent Authority Group is made up of anyone in a government office or currently on a statutory board. This act puts sole control of what is considered true in the hands of the government leaders.

Anything they deem to be prejudicial to the security of Singapore, its public health, the outcome of the election, feelings of hatred between two groups, or the public confidence in the performance of any duty or function by the government, will be “corrected” with the facts.

The act forces corrections to be added to online content so that they accompany the supposed falsehood. In more severe cases, the government may tell the online platform to stop communicating the message altogether. Those offenders who either posted the malicious content or were involved in creating bots that spread false content are subject to thousands of dollars in fines and possible jail time.

Russia’s Censorship Agency Wants VPNs

The Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media known as Roskomnador is taking further action on a law from 2017 regarding VPNs. A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, is a private network that is created over a public network. They increase user privacy by hiding the user’s location and changing the IP address. In this case, Russians used VPNs to gain access to websites that were banned from regular Russian servers.

While President Vladimir Putin signed a law that banned the use of VPNs to access blocked websites, there was no enforcement of it until recently. VPN services have been ordered to blacklist websites that the government finds objectionable. The VPN servers involved are: NordVPN, Hide My Ass, Hola VPN, VyprVPN, ExpressVPN, TorGuard, OpenVPNIPVanish, Kaspersky Secure Connection and VPN Unlimited.

These servers were given 30 days to connect their systems to Russia’s network so they could prevent users from accessing the previously banned sites.

The term “objectionable” used to describe banned sites follows suit with two bills Putin passed last month regarding disrespect of the state. The first bill states that anyone who shows blatant disrespect for the state, Russian officials, or society could face 15 days of jail time. The second bill prevents false information of public interest from being shared online, especially anything masked as fake news.

Reactions to the Censoring

The Singapore government promises that they will only be targeting falsehoods and not opinions, though their method for deciding what is opinion and fact remains to be seen. Many, like a political scientist in Singapore, Chong Ja Ian, say the wording of the bill is too vague, putting too much power in the hands of the officials.

For those who are charged with spreading online falsehood, they have the opportunity to participate in a judicial review to appeal the case. Though this option is offered, few residents have the finances or confidence to go against the government.

In Russia’s case, many of the VPNs, like TorGuard, are simply removing their physical servers from Russia. In the past, Russian law required that online service providers store customer data for a year. IPVanish had a strict no logging policy and also removed their physical servers from the country. Though they have physically removed themselves from the country, many VPNs will set up new server locations in adjacent countries to continue to provide service to Russian customers.

Russia simply wrote letters to the VPNs ordering them to connect or be blocked. In Singapore’s case, they drafted the online falsehoods and manipulation bill and will vote on it within Parliament next month.

Keeping Your Information Secure in Your Hands

Both Singapore and Russian governments are attempting to censor what their people see. While they claim their practices of removing fake news are in the people’s best interest, their implementation methods allow for no opposition from anyone outside of the government. With a system of checks and balances nowhere to be seen, you can rest assured that Secure Data keeps our facilities and methods transparent and up to the highest standards.

At Secure Data Recovery Services, we are SSAE 18 Type II Certified, meaning that all of your information is kept completely secure throughout the entire process. We are audited on a regular basis to ensure our facility maintains it’s Class 10 ISO 4 Cleanroom and are meeting industry standards.

Our line of SecureDrive products are GDPR compliant and HIPAA compliant. Following these regulations keeps your data secure and keeps you in control. With military-grade encryption, you can be sure that your personal data is safe from any intruders. To learn more about our services and products, call us at 1-800-388-1266.